Monday 1 August 2011

Channelling Africa - part 1

First of all, I'm aware that this post could also be titled "You don't know what you are talking about !"#$%?&*" or "You !"#$%?&* are such a pretentious mother". My point is that you are about to read my"controversial" posts (there are 2 parts)!

When I was in my last trimester, I read an article titled Why African Babies Don't Cry. The author, who grew up in Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire, was describing her quest to figure out why African babies are said to cry less than European and American babies.

Her first observation was that African babies are literally cocooned from the stresses of the outside world. They are well wrapped up before being carried or strapped onto their mother.

However, after she gave birth, her grand-mother told her the following:
Offer the breast every single moment that your baby is upset
Drink water to keep you hydrated and the milk flowing
Make feeding your priority
(and my favorite) Read your baby, not the books. Breastfeeding is not linear – it goes up and down and also in circles. You are the expert on your baby’s needs.

If you read my blog, you might know that until I gave birth, I had pretty much no contact with babies. Consequently, I had no idea if this "African theory" made sense or not. So I read Dangers of Leaving Baby to Cry It Out (CIO) and the debate about how to respond to a baby’s cries : the “cry it out” method versus the “attachment parents” method (respond immediately to crying baby and attempt to soothe her using various methods).

The article also presents cross-cultural studies that show that parents in non-Western societies are quicker to respond to their crying babies. For exemple, !Kung people respond within ten seconds over 90% of the time during the baby’s first three months, and over 80% of the time at one year. In contrast, American caregivers have been found to be deliberately unresponsive to an infant’s cries almost 50% of the time during the baby’s first three months.

When we came home from the hospital, I didn't really know how to respond to Alice’s cries. This is when, out of the blue, I decided that channeling Africa would be the way!

My next post will explain how this method worked for us so far, how difficult it is to incorporate it in Western societies and how my part of Canada (Québec) makes channeling Africa possible for new mothers.

* * * * *

lara kasabian: Hello vintage treasure hunter friend :) Wow, a crib is such an awesome piece of furniture to find in the "trash". I love that you called it the crib of luck! Take care xox

lin: I'm planning to eventually do a photo "home tour" but I have a hard time taking proper pictures. Oh, bedbugs are the most evil type of bugs. Very (VERY) difficult to kill. You don't want bedbugs !

sophie: Merci beaucoup Sophie. Tu peux trouver le tissu (qui est présentement en solde!!!) online via purl soho. Il est encore plus beau que sur le site web. J'adore ramasser des objects abandonnés mais je reste prudente car c'est terriblement difficile (et $$$) de se débarasser des punaises de lit. Je suis très heureuse de savoir que tu aimes mon blog. xox

su: The fabric is very pretty and most of all...on sale! The staple gun is so intense!

clairsy: Thank you so much!

leslie: Yes, the car seat is pretty black/white ;) Gray areas are a bit more complicated but they make much more sense since babies/mothers/families are all different.


Vanessa said...

Oh I'm really looking forward to reading pt 2! Despite family and friends telling me to do otherwise, I have not let Eden "CIO" yet in her 4+ months of existence. I've been sooo confused about the whole circle of influence telling me one thing and my fierce maternal instinct telling me another. So far I've been following my instinct...and have been hoping I am doing the right thing!

emily said...

granted i'm in agreement with you on what you've revealed to be your stance so far but i can't wait to hear part 2.

it's so much easier to go comfort my ramona (if she's not already on my chest) then to sit and listen to her cry anyway!

Anonymous said...

This Post is very interesting to me ... I truly belive that if a person cries there is always a reason why and it means there is a compliant, a problem. It doesn't matter if this person is an adult or a child. Obviously, adults and children cry for different reasons but It doesen't mean that children's reasons are less important. I explain: I know that babies cry when have stomach problems or when their teeth emerge. This kind of problem is self evidence... So I think mums have to understand and always listen to baby's cry..
That's my opinion but I dont have babies yet... :)
I apologize if my english is not so good and I can't express my ideas very well :) xxx

UK lass in US said...

I had only heard the term 'cry it out' used in terms of when you are getting them to sleep on their own (about 6 months old at the earliest?). If my kid was crying, there usually was a reason for it: nappy change / hungry / uncomfortable etc. so I would attempt to remedy it / comfort them if no solution was found or I was not in a position to remedy it immediately. I had not heard of any theory suggesting that you ignore the crying, except in the instance of their sleeping in their own room - and then it would normally be suggested that you go in a regular intervals to offer comfort etc. Is this a common thing?

Lila said...

Can't wait to read the second part, this makes so much more sense than CIO which seems cruel to me.

Drawing a Blank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kara said...

Emelia is now 15 and a half months old. We still co-sleep, nurse on demand, and have never let her "cry it out". She is so happy and well adjusted, knows how to self-soothe and responds correctly to a parental "No". It's important to mention that she is also independant and adventurous (and a fabulous sleeper). We get a lot of compliments on how mellow she is, as she is used to going everywhere with me (to the nail salon, many restaurants, etc). We are following attachment parenting because it's what feels right to us. I've always had a visceral reaction to her cries - they grab me by the gut and turn me inside out. So, letting her cry it out never sounded like an option for me.
With toddlerhood here, she is starting to get some temper flare-ups. So far they are short lasted, and I do let her have her little fits as she will inevitably need to learn what disappointment feels like and how to get over it. Not sure how I will handle the all-out crying fits of age 2 - 3, but I may turn to a Dr Sears book for help on that.

taryn said...

i think "read your baby, not the books" is the best thing i've heard. maybe i just use that to justify the fact that i never read any books or did any research but i strongly believe in "mother's intuition". looking forward to part 2!

~mama e said...

hi claudia,
yet another thoughtful right-on post!
the topics you cover are always so near and dear.
and explored with humility, open thought, & intuition. Alice is lucky girl to have you you as her mum!!!

"Read your baby, not the books"...i LOVE that. amazing & sad how such wisdom gets lost. i read A LOT of books while pregnant. Many of them say put your baby on a feeding schedule right away, etc. Dr. Jack Newman (of Canada) says if you read a book that says that put it down; they don't know what the !#$% they're talking about. i agree.

i'm not an "attachment parent." in fact, i'm not into labeling my parenting at all, but i sleep with my baby, i wear him during the day, and i breastfeed him on cue. not b/c a magazine article or a man in a lab coat told me to do so, but because when i became a parent it was what made my babe stop crying. Babies do not cry in vain or out of manipulation; they cry out of need. (And contrary to popular belief, there are current studies that show babies who have their needs met when they are very young grow up to be more confident, independent and happy children.)

Two great books on this subject are:

sorry to ramble on here! i just hate to see mothers doubt the gift of their wonderfully fine-tuned intuition!